The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Salad bars may harbor agents of foodborne illness, such as Salmonella bacteria, if the food has not been handled properly.

Credit: iStockphoto

Microbe Awareness

Daily habits provide some of the strongest defenses against infectious diseases. Among the sensible actions you can take:
  • Keep immunizations up to date.
  • Wash your hands often. Washing with regular soap and rinsing with running water, followed by thorough drying, is considered the most important way to prevent disease transmission. Routine consumer use of residue-producing antibacterial products, such as those containing the chemical triclosan, have not been proven to confer health benefits and may actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.
  • Prepare and handle food carefully. (See “How to Protect Yourself” in Foodborne Pathogens.)
  • Use antibiotics only for infections caused by bacteria. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication if your condition warrants it.
  • Report to your doctor any rapidly worsening infection or any infection that does not get better after taking a course of antibiotics, if prescribed.
  • Be careful around all wild animals and unfamiliar domestic animals. If bitten by an animal, cleanse the wound with soap and water and consult a clinician for further evaluation. Enjoy wild animals with your eyes, not by touching them.
  • Avoid insect bites whenever possible by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.
  • Protect yourself by using safe sex practices. You and your partner should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, if there has been any risk of exposure. Consistently and correctly use condoms when having sex with a partner of unknown status. Avoid sex with an injecting drug user.
  • Stay alert to disease threats when traveling or visiting underdeveloped countries. Seek advice from a reliable source, such as the WHO or the CDC, if you are going to areas of moderate-to-high disease risk.
  • Acquire healthy habits such as eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and avoiding tobacco and illegal drug use.
Learn more about these related topics:

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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about what percentage of cervical cancer cases?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

  • Correct!

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

Infectious Disease Defined


One of the most basic units of biological classification, ranking just below the genus and comprising individuals or populations capable of interbreeding.

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National Academies Press

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